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From Home Furnishing Business

Blow Your Horn

By Powell Slaughter

The new generation of mattress shoppers is accustomed to going to specialists for particular products. They see an Apple store, they think, “I’ll find what I need for smartphones and computers.” The proliferation of mattress-only retailers is right in line with their shopping habits. How do you, as a full-line furniture retailer, let them know you’re in the business of selling sleep? City Furniture President Keith Koenig believes his stores have a lot more to offer in terms of selection and price in bedding than the specialty stores in its markets. How does he get that message to consumers, and how is it reflected on City Furniture’s floors.

“We feel it all starts with the City Furniture and the Ashley Furniture Homestore brands,” he said. (City Furniture’s also a major Ashley dealer.) “We have the logistics, I think the best in the market; we have the product, from a $249 queen to a Tempur-Pedic, an edited selection of major brands; we have the accessories and top of bed. We have sleep specialists in all our departments and an enormous amount of training for the salespeople they support. “But to be really successful, you need shoppers to have that emotional connection with your brand and great customer service. We’re involved in the community, and people know we’re in it for the long haul.” That approach is reflected in Tamarac, Fla.-based City’s advertising. “Everyone else is screaming, ‘We’re number one, we have the lowest prices,’” Koenig said. “We’re talking about City Furniture and our people.

“I’m not saying we win every battle, but we’re the number one player in home furnishings in South Florida, and we’re a major player in the mattress space, even though the specialty stores have hundreds of locations in the market we serve.”


The basis of retail buying group Furniture First’s Mattress 1st program is building consumer mind share for its member retailers when people shop for bedding. “Specialty stores are identified as having expertise, and they offer a specialty experience in the store,” said Andrew Kauffman, director of mattresses at Furniture First. He said retailers who want to do more bedding business should go outside their store and look at it as a customer sees it. “Would you know that you sell mattresses there?” he asked. “If your customer has to come into your store, go up the stairs and all the way to the back, that’s not convenient.” He suggested moving the bedding department to the front of the store or another high-visibility area. “Look for 10 tickets that were for bedroom furniture sales only,” Kauffman added. “Call those customers, and ask them if they know you sell mattresses.” Richard Andrews, president of Andrews Furniture in Abilene, Texas, is looking for ways to keep building mattress sales. “The visibility is something that needs to happen,” he said. “We’d always taken a closet-like approach to where we put bedding, since it seemed to be a very personal shopping and decision process, but maybe that’s not really that important anymore. We put it in a more public location in the store.”


Callan’s Furniture in Waite Park, Minn., recently opened a 3,500-square-foot “store within a store” for mattresses and bedding using Furniture First’s Mattress 1st concept as a template. “The biggest thing we’ve seen with the new department is that you put yourself on equal footing with the specialty sleep shops,” he said. “The consumer can tell there’s been an investment made and that you’re serious about the category.” One good thing about specialty stores moving into a market is that their advertising gets consumers thinking about making a mattress purchase. Do your ads inspire potential customers to do the same thing? Coconis Furniture, South Zanesville, Ohio, has re-thought its advertising approach with the bedding category. “Historically, every ad we ran mentioned mattresses, but with all those new mattress-only stores, our goal is to have a separate budget for the category,” said President Randy Coconis. “By midsummer we should be up and running with that.”


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